Monday, April 25, 2016

Sending Love to Houston

There are two things that I am the most proud of in my life thus far, my two strong and fiercely independent sons and the endeavor to serve Caregivers of Alzheimer’s disease. During the caregiver's retreat this past Sunday when were beginning introductions someone shouted, "I’m a care-receiver today!" My heart swelled with joy, as this is exactly what our mission is about. Receiving the tools to begin to take radical care of themselves so that they have more energy, joy and peace in their daily lives.

Our 2nd annual Caregivers of Alzheimer’s Retreat received a miraculous gift in terms of weather. The severe storms and flooding held off until the retreat completed. Elm Flats Ranch has experienced some extensive flooding on the road up to the house, but thankfully no damage. Many of you in Houston were not as fortunate. Our dear friends Paul and Aline Houston lost everything in the flooding. If you’d like to contribute in any way, please click here. We wish them, The Woodlands Yoga Studio, and many more a speedy recovery from the damages, and hold you all in our thoughts and prayers.

During the retreat we were honored to serve 40 beautiful 'care-receivers' with the help of 40 giving and talented volunteers. This beautiful retreat was possible because of the dedication, hours and offerings of so many. Please join me thanking the generous donors of time, food, services and/or supplies by supporting their offerings or businesses by clicking here (scroll down to sponsors and supporting their endeavors). Check out the beautiful photos of the day taken by Matthew Paradise.

Passionate about teaching students and teachers in a one to one setting, I’m also very excited to introduce an Accompaniment Program for Yoga teachers and private sessions. See more details below and teachers can book a free session.

Enjoy the beauty of spring, a time of renewal and growth. May each day remind you that there is always time to pause, if even for a moment to catch your breath, reset and start again. Every day, a new day. New hope.

In Joy, 
       Melissa 


"I just wanted to take the time to say thank you for the Caregiver's Retreat. It was a day of relaxation, reflection, recharging and release. I got home last night and felt amazing. I fully intend on using the methods we were taught yesterday. This morning with all the flooding going on, the cable was out, and the Daisies were sleeping late, I used that time to do about 45 minutes of Yoga.... I love my new haircut, and I feel like a new person. Please tell all the volunteers thank you! It means so much and makes such a difference. So, thank you again.”

-Raquel

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

My Shoulder Injury

Beginning this month, I'll be chronicling my experience into healing an idiopathic frozen shoulder, both shoulders, actually. Examining the anatomy, biomechanics and all of the different movement and manual therapies, Yoga, diet, sleep, and all manner of advise I've been given and tried for the shoulder... basically everything I've been exploring to heal. 

What's exciting to me about this challenge is I now have a new depth of understanding when a student comes to me in pain. This particular pain is like nothing I've ever experienced. It's rendered doing little things like fastening my bra, gathering my hair in a ponytail, putting on a coat, sleeping (in any position), playing with my boys or doing any weight bearing exercise nearly impossible without sharp pain or simply impossible due to stiffness (frozen) in the joints. 

For a little background on life and how I ended up with an injury which has no known cause... here's the newsletter I sent out this past month to fill you in below. I'm hoping that the transparency of my journey will enable us all to dive in a little deeper into how not only complex our bodies are but also-- to get real. I feel very humbled by all of this- I'm no longer able to do all the things I want to do, and some days I'm angry, other days I feel sad. Most days, I don't dwell on it and plow through best I can. 

Feel free to post in the comments about your own injuries and journey, especially if you've had this condition. I'm listening. And hopeful this journey will grant us both new empathy and resiliency, if not at least more insight to work with clients through a movement I'm passionate about: Yoga (#yogaformerlyknownasyogatherapy). 

***


"As I write this, I cannot believe we are approaching March already. March for me has always been symbolic of pruning, new growth and eventually, blooms. And, this month is no exception. 
My transition to Calgary (from Kuala Lumpur) has been significant, albeit, a little disjointed. A full teaching schedule hasn’t enabled me to really “move into” and become a part of my new city yet. I often feel as if I’m running from one carpool to the next or to one dentist or doctor appointment to another… and time feels as if it’s dissolving at an ever increasingly rapid pace. Do you ever feel like this?

My relationship to time is often how I view my relationship with stress. In this way, stress corrupts my view of time. Each day, armed with a list prepared the day before, I begin valiantly with a short meditation and stretching but often soon after, the day starts to look more like a roller coaster. Rather than being the creator of my day, I often allow myself to become a target and even a victim to time, reacting to events placed in my path almost as if it were obstacles to scramble over. Even going to Yoga (on time) feels rushed. How many of you have raced through traffic only to get to class minutes late and then spend the whole session trying to unsuccessfully calm your mind? As a mom, there’s nothing I can do but embrace the little alterations in plans when my child is sick, needs you to listen to his book report (6 times) or needs to get a new mouth guard or… Likely by the end of the day, I haven’t had moments to care for myself in a relaxing way. 

“So many people come to me asking how could I pray, how should I think, what should I do, and the whole time they neglect the most important question, which is how should I be?”
 -Eckart Tole
As I shift my focus this spring to blooming and adapting, the most effective way I can do this is by learning to find pockets, moments or even seconds where I can just be. Be still. Finding just moments of this, rather than huge unrealistic blocks of time, is equivalent to hitting the snooze button on my alarm. Stress is removed from it’s dictatorship into a more manageable role. I begin restoring my equilibrium (and sanity). 

Then, I look for ways to slow down. 

When I slow down, I feel. I become aware and awaken areas of my life that if I face rather than suppress will reveal new secrets and eventually out of the calm and quiet mind, clarity will come. It’s when I try to seek clarity out of chaos or stress that more confusion results. 

In my own life, I am learning (forced) to slow down through a shoulder injury. The phrase- she carries the weight of the world upon her shoulders has taken on a very physical transliteration for me. Meeting these obstacles from a different frame of mind and at an unhurried pace has allowed me to see myself from a new light. I am still me- only a bit more mindful and a little lighter in spirit. 

Right now. I invite to you to find that lightness by pausing for a moment. After you read this, imagine yourself near the ocean. At the surface, it’s restless, with breaking waves. Allow yourself to slip down below the surface of the water where you find it still and quiet. There is no sound and everything is moving at a silent, soft and steady pace. Stay there for a while and listen for your breath. Then, go about your day with an inner smile. 

                                           With grace,
 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Healing belongs to all of us.


Today, my dad messaged to tell me Marcee, his wife who has Alzheimer's is in the hospital with a serious infection... 
"If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing." ~Zimbabwean proverb
I've never felt like I could really carry a tune but have always enjoyed singing... the connection of singing hymns in church in unison, of chanting corporately, or even singing alone in my car to the radio... brings a feeling of joy.
In preparation for the Caregiver's retreat, I wanted to see what affect practicing the Kirtan Kriya "Sa Ta Na Ma" which is being researched by the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation as a way to improve memory in dementia patients, would have on me. Similar to meditation, the results have been calming, centering.
This past month, I recommitted to (radical) self care due to an idiopathic shoulder injury with changes in my sleep, diet, movement, cultivating true rest and dealing with emotional stuff. Today, instead of worrying about Marcee or busying myself with the urgency of work, I took a nap. I kind of shut down. 
There are times I feel numb about her situation, like I lost her years ago and other times, the freshness of the memories of her old self feels sharp, as I make my coffee the way she taught me to, of her laughter in the kitchen, or if I simply reflect for a moment how my dad must be feeling...
Some days, like today, I just want to crawl back in bed... other days, I feel so invincible that I breeze through, music playing, feet tapping.
After my rest, I took a minute to turn on a song I remember she loved, and then took a few deep breaths and did the chant. I felt calmer -- and more at ease and like I cheated the panic attacks that have been happening lately with ever more frequency.
Mostly, life is riding the unpredicable waves with as much grace as I can muster. We all have our daily rhythms and learning to mindfully synchronize the emotions with endeavor makes the fluctuations less drama-filled, more calm.
Moving toward my most healthy, content self is more than positive self talk or "aligning my chakras". It's a huge shift to put my self care first. Saying no to great projects, asking my kids to do more at home, and asking for more support from friends. 
It is a moment to moment practice where I am empowered to choose freedom from stress and pain, even when that pain is present, I can navigate my response to it with a little more clarity, a little more singing, a little more movement in my body.
With the retreat just a little more than a week away, I feel grateful that myself and more than 40 volunteers will be able to share some tools for self-care in honor of Marcee and my dad. 
Healing belongs to all of us.

#EndAlz

To register or share about the Caregiver's of Alzheimer's Retreat, Click Here.




Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Resilience

"Like wildflowers; 
You must allow yourself to grow in all the places
 people thought you never would." 
~ E.V. Rogina

There was a blizzard in New Mexico the day I snapped this, and my car skid and hit a curb. I pulled over a minute and cried, full of gratitude that I didn't get hurt or hurt anyone else. This life is fragile, and I know I take it for granted. I am sitting here in Calgary today, it's cold but sunny. I'm filled with an overwhelming feeling of surrender. This quote is exactly how I desire to live. With acceptance of where I am, there is the ability to grow. Without it, struggle impedes and overwhelms the joy of expansion of my heart. Because life really doesn't get easier, there will always be grief or loss, today I choose resilience because that is where grace lies.


Join me for ongoing conversation, inspiration and events on Facebook. Or MelissaSmithYoga.com

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cultivating Sympathetic Joy


Mudita, a Sanskrit word which means sympathetic or unselfish joy. It's expressing joy in the serendipity of others' good fortune.

My life, like yours, is messy, complicated, fun, not-so-fun, full of consequences and blessings of choices I've made. It's easy to get disillusioned by watching friends' lives on social media and think that what they have going on is better. In life I get so much more by working toward being content and not wishing for things but instead making the best out of what I have in the season of life presented to me.

God knows, when I was a new mother, I remember the days where I wondered, will I ever leave the house at all or at least leave the house with a clean shirt on? And, now, I think, where have my babies gone that they want to take driving lessons and don't want to hold my hand any longer?

All things pass...good and bad. Seasons shift from summer to winter from newborns to aging parents.

I don't have a full proof recipe on how to cultivate this kind of joy. If it were a magic pill, I would sell it to you. For me, envy is like a blemish at times, popping up on occasion in the most unflattering and noticeable of places.

Mudita begins with the heart. I had to ask myself: what do I need? What brings me joy? And what do my kids need and can I balance those 2 things?

With time, it has gotten easier to be at ease with myself. And, as I've gotten older, I am beginning to  behold the woman I am becoming. Learning to embrace my wrinkles, gray hair (OK, not yet), a slowing metabolism and how I feel blemished to perfect imperfection. Acceptance and joy comes more readily when I am consistent with mindful practices like Yoga and meditation. I'm less agitated by life's bumps and trails. Mostly.

But really, it's about perspective. I'm journalling this in a country that the vastness between the rich and poor is so big that it's simply not possible for me to reconcile it. In fact, some guilt over my own good fortune started to creep in while I've been here.


Our happiness factor doesn't increase with the more we have. In fact, studies show, it decreases. I had to ask myself, what if I let go of how I thought things should be and simply just decide to make a difference by being a better version of myself? That's all I can do. Strive to live every moment contented. Just this moment. Right now.

I can respect and even be delighted with our differences of providence.

As Ram Das says, aren't we are all just traveling the same path home?




Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Relocation, Resistance, Acceptance.


As I get older, it often feels as if life moves faster than ever, but I'm not sure I agree. Life can move more slowly, when I pay attention. Paying attention then becomes a form of love, listening, and even reverence to myself and others. I even believe time can be altered by allowing it to pass with mindful curiosity instead of scarcity or through resistance. 

If I pay close attention, I usually know if and when, intuitively, I am ready for those monumental changes in life and can embrace them rather than thwart them. The biggest shift happens when I begin to recognize and remove the unnecessary and attend to what I value most. By allowing, it weaves itself into the most profound part of my life's story. It moves from being a tool to cope to a part of the process of daily life. Mindfulness, like breathing or Yoga, then becomes both conscious (how I act) and unconscious (how I react under stress) with practice.
 
These past few months, I have been able to put the practice of paying attention to the test with a big life decision. 
 
It is with some sadness mixed with joyful anticipation, that I share with you that I will be relocating to Calgary, Canada in September of this year. This move, like my last move from Houston to Malaysia, is prompted by my ex-husband’s job transfer and our desire to continue to co-parent our 2 boys, now 9 and 14. The boys assisted in our choice of when to move - and wisely, my eldest choose to move at the start of a term rather than mid-term. Which means, I will make a few extra trips back to Asia in October and November to fulfill commitments I have made. This move happily puts us closer to the US, our family and friends. 

In just a few days, we will offer the first free Caregiver’s Wellness Retreat in Houston, Texas. I am also excited to share in teachings, both Restorative Yoga and AcroYoga with the Texas Yoga Communities in Houston, The Woodlands, Nacogdoches, and Bryan-College Station in the month of June. July 17-19, I’m honored to be leading an AcroYoga session at True Nature Yoga Festival in the gorgeous Hood River, Oregon. August brings me back to Asia, with teachings in Singapore, Chiang Mai and Kuala Lumpur. Email now, if you’d like to book a session in one of these cities. 
 
While I feel vulnerable and not at all mindful at times when the layers of life become to heavy, the gratitude that I have for such a supportive Yoga community and friends to share that humanness with is overwhelming. I was comforted with this quote this week, as one of our young volunteers for the caregiver’s retreat was killed by a drunk driver: "You will lose everything you love, and it will return to you in new forms.” 
 
Whatever it is you have been going through this past week or year that feels like a loss, will often reveal itself in an entirely new form somewhere else in your life. I don’t know about you, but I am expectantly looking for that bloom to rise out of soil. I believe it will. 
 
Thank you for encouraging me along this wild and wonderful journey. It’s an honor to have you along this path.
 
With joy and love, 
 
Melissa 

Join me in Texas during the month of June. Complete schedule is here.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Meditation Revelations and Diving into the Fear.

Sitting in meditation. Drawing on the awareness of breath. I feel my heart beating in my ears. The pulsation keeps my attention from wandering about. Then a wave of fatigue washes over me and my whole body jolts as I realize I am nodding to sleep.
I become alert again. My focus more sharp, as I am determined to allow these thoughts of inadequacy as a mother, friend and teacher to wash over me and then pass. I am reminded as we finish our quiet meditation that I am just like the woman on my right as she shares a secret with me.
She is afraid to start teaching yoga and doesn’t know how to release feelings of inadequacy. She thinks she’ll appear a fraud. I silently nod, unable to offer more than a reassuring smile. My eyes sting with tears as I not only understand but feel the sameness of us all.
When I first started teaching, I thought surely someone would sniff me out as a faker. A poser. Was I really a yogi? Did I know enough to lead people through yoga? Certainly, I did not. But, thankfully I came to realize you teach from what you know as authentically as you can.
Show them not the shiniest version of yourself but the real version that can’t get into lotus pose or nail a handstand in the middle of the room. The one who doesn’t always say the right thing or be the best daughter. One who often serves her kids plain noodles for dinner because she forget to go to the store, again. The one who would rather have a longer savasana than a longer, sweaty class. The one who feels humbled by the nervous excitement of having another teacher take her class. The one who occationally nods off in meditation.
“Be. Just be,” I tell her as we hug one another.
With change and challenge, fear will come along for the ride. It’s in the diving into rather than avoiding it, that we find new elements of our own strength. We are capable of great things often hidden from us until just the right time. Turning into my fears rather than avoiding them, cultivates acceptance and brings me to the contentment I seek.
These days I’m more keen to let the warp speedy world fly past me. I feel it moving at a dizzying pace. Just thinking about keeping up makes feel like I’m on the Tilt-A-World at an amusement park waiting for the bottom to drop while my back sticks to the metal wall. I become nauseous just thinking about it.
Most days I’d rather sit and be still. No longer jumping through others’ hoops or qualifications, I seek to make progress in my own timing through experience. I find so much peace in just keeping step with myself day by day- pose by pose- listening and growing because I desire it rather than because it’s expected of me.
Amazing that a sleepy mindfulness meditation unveiled to me that all things are perfect in their own way.
That is perfect. This is perfect. 
When Perfection is taken from the Perfect, 
Perfect alone remains.
~ Shri Shankaracharya
melissa smith2-800
Melissa Smith, Yoga Alliance ERYT® 500 in yoga therapeutics; Yoga Teacher Trainer with Holistic Yoga Teacher Training, Jaya Yoga Teacher Training and Yogshakti Teacher Training; Thai Yoga Massage and Level 2 AcroYoga® certified Teacher. Native Texan, Melissa currently lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with her 2 sons and leads Love and Service Retreats in Thailand, Bali, France, Malaysia and Texas. Join her for a Restorative and Yoga Therapy Teacher Training, November 2016, Koh Samui, Thailand. MelissaSmithYoga.com
Article Published on InTheLoopSingapore